Hidden behind the walls and town palaces of the Lesser Quarter are some beautifully manicured gardens. Many unfortunately are private and closed to the public. This tour focuses on public gardens and green spaces. It starts at the Palace Gardens near the Malostranska metro station and winds through the small streets of the Lesser Quarter, ending up on tiny Kampa Island.
Start at Malostranska metro station. From here, find Valdstejnska Street and walk to number 3. This is the entryway to the (1) Palace Gardens (www.palacovezahrady.cz), a series of elegant, terraced gardens—each named for an aristocratic family—that stretch up to Prague Castle.
Return to Valdstejnska and walk to Valdstejnske Namesti (Wallenstein Square). The entry to (2) Wallenstein Gardens is through the door at Valdstejnske Namesti 4. This enormous town palace was built for the legendary general from the Thirty Years War, Albrecht von Wallenstein. So great was his ego he wanted to build something to exceed Prague Castle in splendor. Today, the palace holds the offices of the Czech Senate, but the gardens are open and especially lovely. Note the eye-catching limestone grotto at the back.
Head back to Wallenstein Square, make a left onto Tomasska Street, and walk to the Lesser Quarter Square. Continue across the square, finding the street Karmelitska. Through a tiny door at Karmelitska 25 lies the (3) Vrtba Garden (www.vrtbovska.cz), possibly the loveliest baroque garden in the Lesser Quarter. Hike all the way to the back for some amazing views of Prague Castle. Leave the garden and continue down Karmelitska to find the (4) Church of Our Lady Victorious at number 9 and its tiny wax doll—the Holy Infant—an object of pilgrimage for Catholics from Italy and Spain.
Cross Karmelitska and return in the direction of the Lesser Quarter Square, making a right at Prokopska Street and entering Maltezske Namesti (Square of the Knights of Malta). The (5) Maltese Order’s Church of Our Lady Below the Chain, across the square at Lazenska, is one of the oldest in Prague and some original early-gothic elements can still be seen in the portals. Facing the church, walk down Lazenska to the right and around the corner into Velkoprevorske Namesti. You’ll see the French embassy on your right and a quirky graffiti wall—(6) the Lennon Peace Wall—down a bit on the left. During the 1980s, following the shooting death of Beatles musician John Lennon, this became an impromptu anti-Communist protest space, with graffiti artists spraying things like “Give Peace a Chance” at night and the police white-washing it the next day. Even now it lingers on as a kind of protest shrine, though these days the “protesters” are likely to be tourists painting the modern-day equivalent of “Kilroy Was Here.”
From the Lennon Wall, walk across the small bridge over the “Certovka” stream that separates the mainland from Kampa Island. (7) Kampa Park is one of the Lesser Quarter’s largest public parks and a great spot to spread a blanket. The (8) Kampa Museum (www.museumkampa.cz), along the river at U Sovovych Mlynu 2, features contemporary art from Central Europe and has a wonderful riverside café. Walk toward Charles Bridge through the small square called (9) Na Kampe. Tiny lanes lead down to the river for some amazing views of Charles Bridge and the Old Town.
2014 Traveler Photo Contest
See all the winning images from the 2014 Traveler Photo Contest.